Rule of law

Arbitrary arrest, detention and alleged enforced disappearance of lawyers in Myanmar

Myanmar Protests

Who we wrote to

We wrote to the Ambassador of Myanmar in the United Kingdom

What's the issue

We're concerned about the military coup that took place in Myanmar and the violent repression of protesters, including through the firing of live ammunition which has resulted in numerous casualties.

These actions represent serious human rights abuses. We're also alarmed by accounts of arbitrary arrests and detentions, as well as alleged enforced disappearances of lawyers.

We're also alarmed about reports of ongoing intimidation and harassment of lawyers, as well as lawyers being prevented from providing legal assistance to detained protesters.

These actions deprive the citizens of Myanmar of their access to justice, violate international fair trial guarantees - including the right to have legal representation of one’s own choosing - and the principle of independence of the legal profession. These rights and principles are cornerstones of the rule of law and must be upheld.

We're particularly concerned about the following cases:

  • since 1 February 2021, Saw Chit Myint Lay, Karen State advocate general, is under house arrest, allegedly without having been charged with any offence
  • on 1 February 2021, U Khin Maung Hla, regional advocate general for the Sagaing Region, was arrested and detained in Monywa prison, charged with Penal Code 505(b), which provides for the imprisonment for 3 years for anyone making any statement with the intent to cause public harm
  • on 1 February 2021, U Nyan Win, lawyer for Aung San Suu Kyi, was detained. Their whereabouts remain unknown
  • on 9 February 2021, lawyer U Kyaw Win Naing was detained in Taunggyi in the Shan State. Their whereabouts remain unknown
  • on the night of 10 February 2021, U Kyaw Hoe, a member of the Legal Aid Committee for Yangon Region, was detained. Their whereabouts remain unknown

The government of Myanmar is reported to be amending several pieces of legislation, including the Penal Code 1860 (s124A) which will criminalise anti-government protest with imprisonment of 20 years.

These amendments also remove obligations of state authorities to bring a detainee before a court within twenty-four hours. Such amendments seem aimed at facilitating the repression of civil dissent and peaceful protest and should be reversed.

What we asked for

We've asked for the authorities in Myanmar to:

  • immediately release lawyers U Khin Maung Hla, U Nyan Win, and U Kyaw
  • pending release, immediately disclose the whereabouts of these lawyers and grant access to their legal representatives and family members, as well as comply with international standards on conditions of detention
  • drop all charges against lawyers in Myanmar unless credible evidence is presented in proceedings that respect fair trial guarantees
  • ensure compliance with fair trial guarantees for those currently arrested and in detention, including the right to have access to legal representation of one’s own choosing
  • reverse any legislative or regulatory amendments whose existence or application violates international legal standards
  • guarantee that all lawyers in Myanmar can carry out their legitimate professional activities without intimidation, harassment, improper interference or reprisals

We stand in solidarity with members of the legal profession in Myanmar. We'll continue to monitor the cases of other lawyers and human rights defenders in Myanmar.